In the course of our work lives, we learn specific tasks associated with our job positions, sometimes putting our strategic thinking on auto pilot. We perform our job responsibilities satisfactorily enough, but often we don’t develop the reflective judgment skills of ‘critical thinking’. What is ‘critical thinking’? Critical thinking is a mental process of solving problems giving proper consideration to the current evidence, the entire context in which the problem exists; and, the relevant methods or techniques for forming a new judgment. These elements also happen to be the key defining characteristics of professional fields and scholastic disciplines.
As Dr. Steven D. Schafersman of the Department of Geology Miami University states, “While we as professors have the ability ourselves to think critically (we had to learn these skills to earn advanced degrees in our disciplines), many students–including our own–never develop critical thinking skills. Why? There are a number of reasons. The first goal of education, ‘what to think,’ is so traditionally obvious that instructors and students may focus all their energies and efforts on the task of transmitting and acquiring basic knowledge. Many students find that this goal alone is so overwhelming that they have time for little else. The second goal of education, ‘how to think’ or critical thinking, is often so subtle that instructors fail to recognize it and students fail to realize its absence.”
By using the processes of critical thinking, individual managers, even entire departments, begin seeing something as possible that they did not see as possible before. Consequently, there is growth of the individual and there is the increased likelihood that what the organization now sees as possible will become innovations for the future.
What are the attributes of a refined critical thinker? These thinkers use many of the following elements:
- Raise vital questions, uncertainties, topics for debate, formulating all of these clearly and precisely for discussion
- Gather and assess relevant information, testing the information against relevant criteria and any standards in place
- Are genuinely interested in finding new and unprecedented solutions
- Are willing to suspend personal beliefs, organizational assumptions, subsequently weigh them against facts
- Listen carefully to others and give constructive feedback
- Look for all evidence, internal and external, to support pending assumptions
- Are able to adjust assumptions when new facts are found
- Look for proof without judgment of others involved in problem resolution
- Maintain a commitment to overcome native ego-centrism and socio-centrism
- Communicate effectively and in a timely manner with all others in determining new solutions to complex conundrums
“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” – Socrates